Everyone talks about Omaha when their travel plans include Nebraska destinations. And with the world renowned Henry Doorly Zoo, Lauritzen Gardens, Josyln Art Museum, Old Market shopping/dining/entertaining opportunities, plus countless other attractions, just in the Omaha Metro Area, it's hard to dissuade travelers from at least taking a weekend to enjoy the atmosphere.
Yet, what about the rest of the state? Where are the unique Nebraska destinations? Is it worth a drive?
My advice, head west. You could stay on Interstate-80, viewing the very flat farmland, Nebraska is famous for. Or you could adventure on the road less traveled like the "Outlaw Trail" and discover the treasures of this vast state. Don't get me wrong I-80 is perfect for your point A to B travel. Set the cruise control at your comfortable speed (75 mph) and zip along with the semi-trucks. Point A to B in under 7 hours, if your point A is Omaha Nebraska and your point B is Kimball Nebraska, not stopping for all the pioneering attractions — but really what fun is that?
We are stepping off the beaten path to review one of the most unique Nebraska destinations.
I stumbled upon this place as I came out of the Black Hills in South Dakota. Ambling south along Hwy 71 you come to a fork in the road just past the state line. If you are not ambling, you will miss your turn. The turn is the dusty trail of Toadstool Road. This is not for the faint-of-heart-strictly-paved-roads, road trippers. The dust immediately billowed behind the car as the tires kissed the gravel road. I drove on over cattle guards dug deep in the sandy soil. Alongside forgotten fences that run over large boulders held together with rusty twine. Miles of summer vistas very few have witnessed.
I had a destination in mind but no earthly idea how to get there. Following my trusty GPS I turned onto another dirt road back towards the west. Sandycreek Road lives up to its name, feeling more like a dry creek bed than an actual road. Cresting hill after hill, wondering if my GPS was playing a nasty trick on me I finally reached a small oasis nestled in the craggy, dry, desert like surroundings just south of Toadstool Geologic Park (famous for it's otherworldly landscapes).
High Plains Homestead encompasses multiple original and restored buildings of the pioneering era. This mini resort is a combination of hotel (Bunkhouse), restaurant (Drifter Cookshack), living history museum (pioneer village), and old west oasis. It is a perfect place to while away a summer afternoon. I would suggest giving it a couple of days. Although the western town of yesteryear is restored beautifully it is the people that make this destination worth the trip. Strike up a conversation with any of the "cowpokes" you find along the way and you might just watch the sun set with them while you are still conversing. Remotely located on the edge of the Oglala National Grassland it feels about as far from civilization as you can get in the state of Nebraska, even though you are a short 30 minute drive from Crawford Nebraska. It is a spectacular view atop the hills so be sure to bring your camera, you will want to remember every detail of your experience.